Roll on the 16th!

What a frustrating and scary period the last few months have been. Sorry once again for the lack of updates, but fishing time has been very scarce as you’ll find out.

I ended the river season on a high then fished the local canals for some lovely pleasure fishing. Sport was slower than normal, but when the float dips and goes under you never know what it will be. Good roach, bream, silver bream and roach bream hybrids were landed along with an early season tench.

The above picture is a specimen silver bream, often confused with roach x bream hybrids which is the next photo up. The local canals seem to contain more and more of these silver bream and when they’re getting to the 2lbs mark they’re more than welcome. Who knows how big they go in there. Possibly a record breaker?

Martin and I shared a few days together having friendly matches to concentrate our efforts. It’s fair to say I got well and truly thrashed, but still caught well. I can’t believe more people aren’t fishing these canals. They’re full of fish these days and most areas are completely neglected.

The early season tench got me in the mood for my tench campaign in May. I had a ticket that covered several lakes, all produce numbers of big tench ands I’d got 2 weeks off work. What could go wrong?

Well, the first thing was Tracey finally got a date for her knee op, right before my first week off. Of course that scuppered my free time as I took over all the household jobs, which included looking after her horses more than I already was. I did manage to sneak out of the house for the odd trip while she slept after the op. I went to a local pond where I started fishing as a lad. I still remember my summer holiday streak of 6 roach in 3 days. That keepnet used to get lifted out of the water every 15 minutes just so I knew I really had caught those fish.

Anyway, I knew this pool like the back of my hand and thought I’d find a few carp to tempt on floating crust. It wasn’t long before some slurps were heard as they took my free offerings.

One particular shady corner is always a holding area. I’d put some bread in, but when I looked back it had gone, yet I’d not seen any disturbance. I flicked a piece out on some 6lb line and specialist rod. I wanted the fight to be fun, not drag a fish in on tow rope!

Straight away a dark shape eased up from the depths and took my bread so delicately. I connected and all hell broke loose. ‘This is proper carp fishing’ I thought to myself as my reel sang while line was taken against the clutch.

After a short but spectacular fight I landed a lovely common. I didn’t weigh it, it wasn’t massive, certainly double figures, but this time the reward was in pleasure not pounds and ounces.

The rest of the afternoon was just as much fun as I landed a couple more carp, but the amount that took my bread without getting hooked was unreal. I think I spent half of the afternoon cursing! One fish that never took my bread was very large. I threw a piece of bread on it’s nose to see if it would feed, it slurped it down, then took off, not to be seen again!

I planned to do more of this ‘quick hit’ fishing before disaster struck. Looking after Tracey’s horses was making my hay fever type allergies flare up, but I thought I’d be fine, before a bad cold triggered some kind of attack that had me in hospital for almost a week. It was very scary not being able to breathe and I received plenty of tellings off from the docs. First I waited till the last possible minute before realising things were serious. Apparently I was 1-3 hours from croaking it! A tube inside my lungs had gone into spasm and a muscle was closing it off completely. Then I had tellings off because I knew I was allergic to horses but carried on looking after them etc.

At the end of all that I pulled through (obviously!) but I’m absolutely shattered and it’s taking a long time to get my energy back. One doc described it as “it’s like walking at the top of Everest” I’m on lots of steroids and the like to get me back to normal, but it’s a wake up call to start looking after myself again. The down side is I’ve missed all the good tench fishing times, but it’ll soon be the 16th of June and a whole load more adventures open up to me then. As the title says, roll on the 16th!

End of Season Blues (And Two’s!)

Well, it’s here again, the dreaded March 14th has been and gone in the blink of an eye and another river season has gone in a flash. They seem to come round faster every year. I do hope at the very least the closed season is moved back soon because in the next month rivers and their fish will come into their prime. Last year, when the season started, most fish were just starting to spawn or had just spawned in my local rivers when we were allowed on the banks again. Then the EA cut almost all of the weed out in some of them! That is absolutely farcical and makes a whole mockery of having a closed season.

My fingers are crossed that it’s either moved or even scrapped altogether so that any clubs can impose their own closed season. If clubs feel they need to rest their stretch of river, just like a lot did in last summers heatwave, they can do so at a sensible time, not one that was decided over 140 years ago. Anyway, enough of the politics, let me tell you about the last full week of the season.

I’d got the full week off work and I’d planned a trip to a great stretch of the Hampshire Avon with my mate Matt, but a ‘Danger to life’ weather warning meant I gave that a miss. The next couple of days were spent catching up on paperwork and DIY jobs. I didn’t mind this because Wednesday looked as perfect for barbel fishing as it could get. A temperature of 11 degrees on Tuesday night gave way to even warmer ones on Wednesday. Couple this with steady drizzle and the odd shower and I simply couldn’t fail. I made my sandwiches and flask up, threw my ready made up tackle in the car and set off for the River Trent. I’d got as far as the end of my street when I remembered I’d forgotten my head torch. I turned back, stalled the car on the drive (I’d forgotten it was still in gear when I stopped!) but grabbed the torch and got back in the car, only it wouldn’t start! Leaving the lights and wipers on for less than a minute had only gone and flattened the battery. I got the jump leads out and waited for Tracey to come home, but by the time this was done it was 4pm so I decided to knock it on the head and go the next day.

The next day the car wouldn’t start again, so after jump starting it once more, I headed to get a new battery fitted. By the time this was done it was the afternoon, and the weather had turned very cold. I decided not to go once again, especially after looking at some anglers reports. Some anglers had bagged up the day before, with the area I fancied ‘fishing it’s head off’ according to social media. One chap had landed over 10 in an afternoon and lost around the same amount. A good number were doubles to over 15lbs. I recognised where the photo was taken and it was virtually the same swim I had in mind. Oh dear! The latest reports were of a quickly rising river though, with a lot of debris coming down in the flow and not many fish being caught. I’d assess things again in the morning.

With the weather being really cold and wet I tidied my tackle until Sunday because I’d rearranged my Avon trip for this day. With torrential rain once more forecast for down there, once again we called the trip off. 440 miles is a long round trip to be faced with dire conditions, so it was best to play it safe till next season. By now I’d decided I was going fishing somewhere even if I knew I’d blank. I headed to a small local river to fish for a chub or roach. Anything would do, I just wanted to get out of the house and get a few bites on the river before the shutdown. Conditions actually looked quite good when I reached the river. Just enough colour to see the bottom in shallower areas, but not in deeper ones. I spent an hour walking up and down, feeding mashed and liquidised bread into likely looking swims. I then went to set my float rod up and I couldn’t believe it. I’d only grabbed a butt section and 2 middle sections of my float rods! How didn’t I notice? I’d been carrying them in my hands for over an hour!

After nipping back and returning, I repeated the same feeding regime, but I noticed the river had risen slightly and it was more coloured. You couldn’t see the bottom anywhere now. Also, a very strong gale force wind had sprung up. It was so calm earlier when I’d turned up. Still, this day was just going the way of the rest of the week before, but I had to give it a go this time.

I trotted a pinch of bread flake on a size 12 hook under a 5 number 4 stick float. I bulked most of the shot 16 inches above the hook link, then had one small dropper on the 0.10mm line. First cast the float jabbed under but the strike produced nothing. ‘Maybe I’m a little too deep’ I thought, before the same happened the next cast. This time I hit into a decent fish and soon an 8oz roach was on the surface waiting to be netted. The flow made me think it was a lot larger than it was, but then a large pike crashed out of the water just missing my roach. I quickly bullied it in after that and at last I’d caught a fish!

Usually, in this area, if you found some roach there’d be the odd good fish amongst them. This concentrated the mind, but after another hour all I’d landed was a chublet. I thought that maybe the pike had spooked the roach shoal away so I tried different swims upstream and down, but with no luck.

I noticed that tight to the far bank some reeds had created a few slack areas in the current. I doubted whether any fish would be in those as the river wouldn’t be much more than 18 inches deep over there. I gave it a go and blow me, my float went under straight away! Because the water was still I knew it had to be a fish and this was the case. I quickly caught several more chunky roach with the best probably not quite a pound in weight.

By now it was almost impossible to hold the float in the swim such was the strength of the wind. It was also very hard to cast the float in the right area, despite the river only being 2 rod lengths wide at the most. Several bites were also being missed and fish bumped because of the bow the wind was creating in my line.

One cast was dragged out of the slack by the wind, but it crept down the swim right on the crease of the main flow. The float slowly slid under as it reached the end of the slack and I expected to have fouled some debris on the river bed. The strike met a solid resistance though, followed by a couple of thumps. Things went still for a short while, but steady pressure brought the fish up in the water. I was expecting a chub when a great roach appeared like a ghost through the murky water.

The first thought that came into my mind (after bloody hell!) was the pike. I didn’t want to lose this fish, and even worse would be for a pike to take it, so I took advantage of the strong flow and the fact there was no cover for quite a while on my bank. I quickly walked downstream of the fish while holding my landing net. After getting it well away from the swim the flow brought the roach towards me where I quickly netted it. I don’t think I’ve bullied a big river roach like that before but the size 12 hook certainly helped me.

I knew as soon as I lifted the net that this was well over 2lbs, the only question was by how much. The needle on the Rueben’s went to 2lbs 5oz, a monster for this small river. I also measured her at just over 15 inches long from ‘nose to fork’ though half of her tail was missing! She’d also had another close shave looking at the missing scales on either side of her body, close to the tail. Was it the pike or a bird? One thing was for sure, this roach had quite a few tales to tell whilst getting to this size.

I marvelled at her one last time before taking a photo on my phone to send to Martin, before placing her into the net. She was very well proportioned compared to a lot of big roach in this river. ‘Pigeon chested’ is how most of the older generation described the roach from this river, but not this one. Broad across the back yes, but not like some of the other roach pictured below that I’ve caught in the past from here.

I rang martin and asked if he was busy, and if not could he come and witness the roach and take a few photos. As luck would have it he was fishing the same river, and not too far away from me.

Martin came to do the honours while the light was still good, despite him also having a good day with the roach. He’d landed fish of 1.8 and 1.4 as well as a number of back up fish. As he came towards me, a huge bank of black cloud started to envelop us, brought by the gale force wind. We brought the fish out to admire and took a few quick photos, just as we started to get pelted by freezing rain and hail.

We didn’t mind our soakings though as we trudged off home. We’d ended the season in style, thankfully in my case, for my sanity if nothing else after the week I’d had!

Down Memory Lane

Once again, time has been my enemy, but I’ve managed a few short trips as well as walking down some of my favourite places. The above image was the walk to my favourite big roach peg on my local river. Sadly, as you can see, nobody walks in the area any more so the footpath has become overgrown, just like the river. But I was in for a surprise on this particular walk as it became clear that the EA had decided to breathe some life into the place.

My walk started as a quest to show why new anglers are thin on the ground these days. An Angling Times article suggested we needed to make angling ‘more sexy’ to attract new blood into the sport. I disagreed. I thought how my mates and I came into the sport in the first place. We started catching tiddlers, using nets in the local streams. From there we progressed onto the local rivers using real tackle, and some lifelong anglers were born. Rivers transfixed us in the summer holidays and we used to watch the gudgeon, roach and perch swimming in the clear waters. If we were young boys again I doubt we’d be anglers. The streams have dried up, the river contains very few fish and even the local footpaths have been blocked by new roads and railway fences, where you could once cross the lines. Even the bridge that I caught my first big roach from now has railings on. Probably because of ‘elf n safety’

As I said earlier, I was amazed but glad that the EA had sent the usually dreaded dredger to clear this once prolific fishery. The river either side of the above bridge used to be 5ft deep. I know this because my mates and I all swam in it till we were 16 years old, after jumping in via the bridge! This was in the summer too! Abstraction and subsequent lack of flow meant the river slowly silted up and became overgrown. Even if the cormorants hadn’t eaten most of the fish I think they would have struggled to reproduce in numbers. The gravels have been long gone under the silt and the ever growing willows consumed the place, making it one giant chub swim.

The above picture was my all time favourite roach swim, called the platform, after the metal sheeting was installed in around 1982. It’s finally fishable again now, but the water used to flow inches from the top of the metal, just where I used to place my old green seat box. There was a willow at the end of the swim and I used to draw the roach out from under there by carefully feeding my maggots. I remember showing my mate Martin the swim while we were at school together and promising him I’ll show him how to catch the ‘legendary’ big roach if he came straight after school finished. I had 3 roach all between 1.8 and 1.12 in my net when he turned up, and I’d lost 6 others! It was a great swim.

Look at the rubbish that came out of the swim. there was even more behind me!

I carried on to some other favourite swims and was pleased to see them looking a lot better. We just need a load more water now, and a few more big roach! Anyway, I’ll get on with some fish that I have caught!

A mobile session on a local river produced a fine net of fish to me just before the new year. I started off catching plump roach and dace on maggots from a pacy shallow peg. The fish were in fantastic condition.

The roach went up to around 10oz while some of the dace were close to 8oz, but I was soon searching other swims. I found one swim where I fancied a few fish because it was slightly deeper. I took my time and primed it with some mashed bread over the space of an hour or so. When I started fishing I was soon rewarded for my patience with some plump roach that wouldn’t have been too far off a pound. I did get a better sample that I weighed at 1lb 7oz. A lovely fish, complete with the odd bit of blackspot, a harmless parasite that big roach get from eating infected snails. (So I’ve been told!)

Soon some chub gatecrashed the party, but with them both being over 4lbs, one almost 5lbs, they were most welcome. Even another chunky dace came to my trotted bread before I called it a day.

When I lifted my net out I couldn’t help but admire the quality fish I’d caught on a cold, dark day. After a quick photo I watched them all swim away, and hoped I’d be lucky enough to catch the same roach in a few years time, when they’re all around 2lbs!

Trying To Make Short Sessions Count

This is almost a repeat of last months blog, with time for fishing being very scarce. At least Tracey has finally had a scan on her bad knee. 3 torn ligaments out of 4 is bad enough, no wonder she was in so much pain and can’t walk, but waiting almost 3 months for the scan and results is ridiculous. Even now we could be waiting 3 more months to see if they’ll do an op or not. The staff who work for the NHS are first class, but unfortunately they’re let down by a criminal lack of funding. The net result for me is I have 2 horses to look after and feed every day after work, so fishing time is limited!

I did manage to fit 3 short evening trips in for barbel. I fished twice on the tidal Trent and once on the middle river. The lack of water and clarity is alarming, meaning daytime action is rare unless you fish with particles.

I’d rather use boilies and fish into darkness as this fits in with the time I have available so this is what I did. On my first trip the light was just fading as I had my first screaming take. It was only a small barbel around 4/5lbs, but look at the shape. This looks like it could be a real beast in the future.

I had a few more slightly larger barbel and bream before catching my first double of the autumn. A lovely fish that gave me a good scrap! (don’t laugh at the hair, it was windy!)

I remember in 2005 when I set out to catch my first Trent double. I went with Matt Brown, who’d caught a serious number of barbel that season, but only one double at the time, though it was a good fish. He showed me he was catching one double for about every 90 barbel caught. Now I was lucky enough to catch a double that night, but just look at the river now. I catch doubles on more trips than not!

After the double I packed up and went home, returning to the same swim a couple of days later. I couldn’t believe no other anglers had been seen on both evenings, but it suited me fine as I could try and draw fish up from a long way downstream. Again I caught steadily with 5 more barbel, including a double, backed up by even more bream. The bream became an increasing nuisance so I called it a day around 10pm The barbel were in pristine condition.

As the night air cooled, massive ‘Icebergs’ of foam came down the river making things a bit surreal. The below photo was a small example of what was floating down the middle of the river at night.

My next trip took me to the middle river where I only caught one barbel, plus numbers of bream! As per usual the barbel was a good fish, touching 11lbs, but it had a horrible golf ball sized lump on it’s tail that was bleeding.

It didn’t seem to affect the fish though as it gave me one of the best scraps I’ve had from a barbel. The river was so low and clear I had to land it 20 yards downstream, because there were too many boulders just under the surface where I was fishing. I doubt the barbel would have made it in to the bank above them!

In-between the barbel trips I carried on walking my local smaller rivers looking for any good fish, namely big roach. I’ve not seen a decent fish now since the start of the season on a previous trip. I’m both saddened and worried how so many big roach can go missing in 6 months. I just hope they’ve moved elsewhere rather than the other possibilities! Anyway, I had a couple of hours spare so fished a swim which usually produces a few roach. After feeding for a while with casters, a chunky dace and 2 chublets wrecked the swim sending the roach under some overhanging branches. I coaxed a few small fish out and a better sample not far short of a pound. I let one trot go right under a raft of debris. I was expecting to get snagged up but just at the point of no return my float jabbed under and I struck into a good fish. This is where things went haywire and I played a blinder, in my opinion!

About 8 big roach flew out from under this raft in all directions followed by a couple of big pike! I realised I was attached to one of the big roach but the pike sensed something was wrong and was in full hunt mode. I lowered my rod and took the bail arm off so the roach stopped twisting in the current and headed back downstream. I followed it before tightening down and hoping for the best. It worked a treat as the hook had stayed in and battle commenced 20 yards downstream from where I’d originally hooked it. It was well away from the pike now, so after a tense battle on light tackle, I eventually netted my first big river roach of the season. At 14 inches long it tickled the magic weight on the scales, but more importantly I’d found one of the survivors. A roach that’s made it to a special size despite all the challenges it’s faced over the last 10 years or more. Fingers crossed it’s not my last from this tiny magical river.




No Time and Psychic Payback

To any people who like to read this blog, I’d like to apologise for the lack of recent updates, but I’ve simply had very little time for fishing.

In 4 months I’ve had a handful of trips lasting a couple of hours on my local stream, plus an evening on the Trent and a trip to the Hampshire Avon. This is because my girlfriend dismounted her horse doing a triple salchow (with pike) and has damaged her knee. Unable to get around the house, or even get into the shower, this has meant all my spare time has been spent trying to help her. Even now she’s still on crutches and can’t get upstairs, but is just about good enough for me to maybe start sneaking in some longer days out on the bank.

On a couple of short recce’s to my local stream I spotted 2 big roach, but they were living in different shoals with a lot of smaller roach acting as bodyguards. One looked so big I simply had to try for it, but despite several near misses, it refused to take my caster hook bait. I did catch a few of it’s smaller shoal mates though, and plenty of perch which seem to be increasing in numbers.

It was puzzling me where all the big roach had gone. Hopefully they were hiding and have not died or been predated on. I tried a couple of possible holding spots. The first has produced a few 2lb+ roach to both Martin and myself, but this time I only had a few lovely smaller fish and a perch around 2lbs.

The next spot was one where I had a good bag of big roach from last autumn, and again I could see some shapes milling around under some willow branches. I couldn’t be sure if they were big roach or not so I just tried to catch what was on offer. They certainly looked big roach size, but alas, it was those big roach imposters of the river, the chublet of around a pound! There were a few nice roach mixed in with them, and the obligatory perch, but the swim left more questions than answers.

Speaking of those chublets, 3 years ago there was a shoal of similar sized fish that gave good roach impressions whilst playing them. I cursed when they used to surface, but I fished for those same fish a few weeks ago and they’re now almost all over 4lbs, with some over 5lbs!! They gave me a great scrap on light float gear, but if they keep growing they’ll be real specimens. I doubt they will keep growing though because most chub in this river top out at 4lb 8oz, with the odd ‘5’ Again, this catch included the obligatory ‘stripey’

Just when things were looking bleak on the big roach front, I received a late night call from my mate Martin telling me he’d just caught a belting fish for these parts of 2lbs 4oz. At the time he was without his mobile phone, so instead of ringing me to take the photos he had to call on the services of his eldest son Joseph, who did a fine job.

Martin told me there looked to be a few more big roach in the swim so I paid the same area a visit 2 days later. It was a place we’d never tried before so we hoped we’d struck gold, but the big fish looked to have gone when I arrived. They may have been hiding in some foliage, but I could see some other decent roach so I just assumed they’d moved on. Just to be sure I fished for everything in the swim and put a nice net together. The roach were quality fish, but not the lumps this river can produce.

I also caught some chub and of course a lumpy perch of well over 2lbs!

The highlights of the day were these little fellows. I’ve not caught any for ages but I’ve a real soft spot for the gudgeon. When I was a kid they saved many blanks for me and most venues seemed to be teeming with them.

Finally I had a chance to fish for several hours so Martin and I headed for a stretch of the Trent that we knew held big roach as well as big barbel. The plan was to fish for roach until the light started to fade, then switch to the barbel gear. Last year we both caught some cracking redfins from the same swims that we again jumped into on this trip. Plenty were around or over a pound, but the stretch has produced several confirmed 2lb+ fish, so we were full of hope. Unfortunately the roach were not in residence. Last year our quiver tips never stopped twanging and banging, but this time we just caught a few small dace apiece. There may be a reason for this though because powerful forces may have been at work!

Martin and I have always been interested in the ‘unknown’. Right from our middle school days Ghosts, UFO’s and everything in between has always been discussed openly and debated as to whether we think things are true or not. This fishing trip saw the spoon bending psychic Uri Geller being discussed. If anyone searches online they will find evidence that he’s a ‘fake’ and how he achieves his deception, especially in James Randi documentaries. This saw Martin and I openly criticising him and anyone who thinks he’s genuine. He even claimed to move the football for a penalty during the England vs Scotland Euro 96 match! Anyway, while I was slating Uri and his believers I stood up to take a pee, when I heard a crash behind me. I turned just in time to see my Shimano Baitrunner, attached to my rod heading towards the sea at a rate of knots!

It was obviously a barbel that had done this but how it didn’t break the fine ‘roach’ hook link that I had on, before it flattened the rests and dragged the rod away, heavens only knows……….or was it Uri getting revenge?

Anyway, I was gutted at losing all that tackle and having a fish drag my rod through the swims. The long hook link was very fine so it should snap like cotton as soon as the rod reaches the snaggy bottom, but it was still bad angling, especially as I was using a baitrunner. Lesson learned and no more fish caught!

For my last trip I visited the Hampshire Avon to check some big roach out. I’d been invited down by a friend and he told me to prepare myself for seeing something special. At dawn we were on the banks, walking the meadow, looking for signs of roach. Eventually I spotted a fish gliding over some thick weed and said “there’s a chub over there” To which my mate replied “I’ve never seen a chub in this area of river before” We watched the fish ‘waddle’ over the weed, turn to face the flow, and saw its size. We also saw it’s red fins and tail. It was a roach of goliath proportions! “told you you’d see something special” said my mate. And he was dead right, for as the sun rose, we caught sight of more and more roach in the swim. They were very wary though, sticking tight to the weed stems where they entered the river bed, allowing the flow to push the rest of the weed over their backs, making them almost invisible to predators and anglers alike.

Soon we were able to get a handle of the numbers of roach in the swim. There were loads of ‘bodyguards’ probably well over 100+ fish in the 8oz to pound plus size. Then there were the ‘2’s probably around 20+ in numbers ranging from ‘scrapers’ to near ‘3’s and then there were the giants of the shoal. Probably half a dozen, possibly into double figures in numbers, these were the fish to make any anglers lifetime. Genuine 3lb+ river roach swimming just feet from where I was stood, and eating my introduced casters! One must have been almost 18 inches long, with flanks like a bream. I’d hate to estimate what that weighed. It’s a sight that I’ll always remember.

It was obvious from the start these giant roach were tackle shy, but due to the thick weed, you couldn’t fish too light. There were several near misses as a giant would go for my caster only to shy away at the last moment. Unfortunately some of the bodyguards took the bait before I could get it away from them. I knew that for each one landed, the giants would be a lot harder to tempt. The smaller roach had to be admired though. They were perfectly conditioned, so deep and broad that they had to be future giants themselves. Most were in the 12oz to pound plus size, still making for a good day.

We knew that dusk would provide our best opportunity, but I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer, almost falling in the river as I fell asleep stood up! I was privileged to have seen such roach though, and I’d only just set off for home when my mate messaged me with a roach he’d just caught that was well over 2lbs. I daren’t read any more messages he sent after that, but I couldn’t help wishing I lived 200 miles closer! Here is his prize alongside one of the mint ‘bodyguard’ fish we caught.



No Double Trouble For The Rebel M.T.

I was back after a big tench again, and yet again things were going wrong. My first week of fishing ended abruptly with the cut to my hand. Now all my other days off were wiped out because of a meeting and Tracey going abroad on a Hen Do, leaving me looking after 3 dogs! This is the trouble with having to book my annual leave for the summer nearly a year in advance. If anything crops up I’ve had it.

Anyway, my gear was ready to throw in the car so as soon as Tracey was back I zoomed off to at least grab a couple more days chasing a green giant. I’d intended to arrive at first light, the best time to spot any fish activity, but a motorway closure soon put paid to that. After driving for ages through an endless amount of tiny villages, I finally returned to the motorway. The sat nav’s time of arrival had gone up by about 1 hour. You couldn’t make it up. To relieve stress, I spotted a McDonalds drive through and went for a coffee and bite to eat. A few minutes later wouldn’t hurt any more now. I went to get my card out of my pocket, but there was nothing there. I’d only left all my cash cards at home! Luckily, I had a  £5 note on me, thus avoiding the ‘slow lap of shame’ in the ‘Drive Thru’. I got a coffee and carried on. It was then I looked at the fuel gauge with horror. It was below half a tank and I still had about 80 miles to go. I was going to turn around and plod home, but I’d had enough of things cropping up. I was going tench fishing even if I ran out of fuel!

I arrived with just over a quarter of a tank of fuel left, but more importantly the lake was almost full. At least it took the stress out of choosing a peg. I went into where I’d blanked last time out, but this time with no rolling fish I had a really good cast around with a marker float. I chose to fish on the nearside of the gravel bar this time. On top of the bar it was 6-7ft with lots of scaggy weed, but at the bottom of the gravel slope it was silty and clear, dropping from 11 feet to 13ft, before a there was a bed of Canadian Pondweed. Hopefully the tench would patrol this area.

I spombed out a 4 lots of hemp and pellet, then fished a couple of feeders over the top. One was full of maggots, with maggots on the hook, the other was chopped worms, with hair rigged worms for bait. It was then time to get the kettle on.

In summer, when I go fishing at a daft early morning time, I really struggle to keep awake these days, as was the case on this trip. In between snoozes, I would fill the feeders up to keep some fresh bait going into the swim. I’d just looked at my watch at 5pm, thinking I was going to have another blank day when it happened. The alarm bleeped and I looked at the rod. The tip was bouncing from whatever had caused it, when the alarm went into overdrive as the bobbin dropped, then lifted up as a fish had obviously hooked itself.

I lifted the rod to feel something on the end. I had to remember what to do now, it’d been so long since I’d had action when after tench! After a few seconds loads of coots scattered as my line cut through the water. ‘Don’t tell me I’ve hooked a duck’ was my initial thought. I felt something ‘thump’ a couple of times, before it kited steadily to my left. Whatever it was didn’t feel very big, nor powerful and I was wondering whether it was a bream or a big roach. The kiting became a real problem because the reeds extended a long way from the bank. I leant as far forward as I could, but the fish reached the reed stems. ‘Don’t tell me I’m going to lose it without seeing it’ was my next thought. After a short stalemate the fish came out of the reeds and fought in open water, about 10 yards in front of me. I saw a deep flank twist and thought it was a bream. I had my polarising glasses on my forehead so slipped them over my eyes, where I could see big paddle fins. It was a tench!

Now I suddenly realised if the tench was so deep, it could be a pretty big fish. This put more pressure on me but luckily, after some steady pressure, it wallowed into the net with no problems at all. I tried not to get too carried away, but it felt a good weight, and when it was on the mat I kept saying to myself ‘that has to be a double, it’s got to be’ After all, it was almost as deep as it was long.

Out came the carefully zeroed Reuben’s. It seemed wrong to bundle such a stunning fish into a sling, but this sport is almost always a numbers game in one way or another and it was time to put a number to this stunning specimen. The needle sailed round well past 10lbs before coming back to settle on 10lbs 5oz, what a fish, and a great way to end my tench jinx of recent times.

A carp angler came to have a look and even he was impressed. He offered to take some photos which led to a bit of awkwardness. I had to decline, I told him ‘I’ll sort it out after I’ve cast back in’ The trouble is I’ve had a few shocking photos of big fish taken by carp anglers! I didn’t want this to be in the same bracket. If the photos were cocked up, I wanted it to be my fault.

I went to put her in a sack, when she went mental on the bank, giving me a real beating and covering me in slime! She didn’t really fight in the water, but she was now! When she was safely secured in the margins for a couple of minutes, I sorted my camera out and managed to get a few quick shots before slipping her back. I hoped she’d make someone else as happy as I was at that moment. Isn’t it funny how quickly your fortunes can change in fishing?

The rest of the day went without incident, but I wasn’t bothered one jot!

The next day I was up at first light and saw a few tench roll, but not over my baits. I repeated the same feeding routine that I’d done on the first day, then it was just a case of steadily working the swim, hoping a few more tench would come along.

At midday I had another screaming bite. This fish felt in a different league and I suspected a carp to be the culprit. It charged off, then came running at me at speed. It was heading for some sunken branches to my right and I had to give it everything the 8lb hook link had to keep it away from sanctuary. I managed to turn it at the last moment and bring it under the rod tip. Well blow me, I could see it was another tench. What a scrap this had given me.

I managed to get it into the net at the first time of asking and at first I thought I’d got another double.

I soon realised it’s dimensions weren’t quite like the first tinca, but it was a stunning fish. It was a mixture of greens, golds, yellows, browns and black, not to mention the little red eye. What a gorgeous fish. The scales said it was 8lbs 14oz, another cracking specimen.

I should have let the carp angler take the photos of this fish because my efforts were pretty poor! I shouldn’t have left my dark top on because it doesn’t contrast well with the dark tench. Never mind. I was still having a session to remember.

A short while later I missed another bite where the worm had managed to fold over the hook. Ah well, you can’t win them all. Incidentally, all 3 bites came to the worm rod and not the maggots. Maybe I should have changed the maggot rod over to worms too, but I couldn’t complain with my lot. 2 tench for over 19lbs was more than I could have hoped for. Now I just had to try and get 190 miles back home on hardly any fuel. And my phone had ran out of battery too!

The journey home was a white knuckle ride, but by not going over 60mph, these modern diesels showed what they can do. I arrived home with fuel to spare! I was stunned and it shows how much more fuel we use when going 70mph. For once all my decisions had gone for me and lady luck had smiled on me.

That’s it for my real specimen tench fishing, though I may fish for them on a local lake with a traditional closed season. Roll on June the ‘magic’ 16th when I can fish there and also all the rivers and drains! Tight lines



Canal Roach and Tench Blank.

My early spring fishing on the local canals finished abruptly when a sudden heatwave sent almost every fish into spawning mode. It’s always time to leave them alone then.

Prior to that, I’d struggled in my morning sessions compared to last year, taking the odd good roach with a few decent bream thrown in for good measure. I’d have loved catches like these though when I used to fish the canal as a boy.

All of my catches were falling to float fished bread. But on one catch after catching a number of nice bream, my keepnet was full of sweetcorn skins! Someone had obviously been piling the ‘yellow peril’ in.

Frustrated by the lack of big roach, I switched to fishing in the evening to see if that made a difference. It was like flicking a switch as a number of quality specimens fell for my light line tactics. One redfin of a pound and a quarter gained my attention. It was pretty chunky, but not pigeon chested like many others. It had lovely coloration though. Interspersed with the textbook roach colouring was the odd patch of bronze, where lost scales had grown back, but in a different colour. It’s amazing how stunning our coarse fish are when we take a close look.

I placed a few roach for a photo before putting the rest back. I had 15 more like the ones in the photo. While not massive roach, fish around a pound are true specimens for a tiny urban canal, and I’ll never tire of catching them.

Following the heatwave that saw almost every roach in the canal getting all frisky, I turned my attention to a big tench, or hopefully more!

I’ve not had much luck in pursuit of tench in recent years. The Oxford gravel pits have never yielded a tench to me, despite watching them roll in my swim on many occasions. I tried in Norfolk, and caught a couple of nice fish on my first trip. With a couple of weeks booked off work I looked forward to more, but fractured ribs in a freak fall stopped me getting on the bank again.

This years effort started in dodgy fashion as I drove down to the gravel pits I’d decided on fishing, arriving at first light, but then I took another hour to find the gate to get into the place! Once in, I arrived at my chosen lake to see a few tench rolling in open water. With no other anglers in the area, I quickly put some gear in the swim and got my plumbing rod out. I found a nice clear gravel bar which the tench were rolling behind. I then got my spod rod out to put some bait in, hoping to gain their confidence before casting in. Then disaster happened!

I opened a can of hemp to mix with my other baits that I was going to spod out. As I pulled the ring pull, I felt a very sharp pain and instinctively clutched my hand tight to my body. A quick look down at all the blood confirmed my suspicions, I’d got a very bad cut. Even worse was the fact I’d carried a first aid kit with me all winter, but had left it in my float fishing bag!

I kept wrapping my thumb in wipes, trying to stop the flow of blood whilst trying to start fishing, but it was no use. I had to find a shop. Eventually I bought a load of plasters, germaline and antiseptic wipes. The cut was pretty bad but I wasn’t driving back home. I was here for another day and a half, so I put plenty of plasters on that pulled the cut together, then started fishing!

It was no surprise that the tench activity had stopped by now. Despite my optimism, I never saw another tench roll, nor did I get any bites. My tench fishing luck just has to turn one day!

Canal Frustrations

I’ve been concentrating on all three of my local canals over the last few weeks. They’re all different venues, not only in name but their sizes, depth and characters. They range from tiny, shallow and intimate to large, deep, exposed and tough. A range of species, many to specimen size, reside in them all, meaning there’s always something to target. Unfortunately, the heavy rains and flooded rivers even started to effect these canals.

I wanted to fish for big perch, but heavy colour in my chosen venue, caused by the River Don flooding, meant I tried to catch a big chub from a different canal. The pegs I headed for are steeped in canal chub history. In the glory match days of the late 80s and through the 90s, when this ‘cut’ always had big matches every week, these were the pegs to draw for the chub. Once the matches stopped and the canal was almost abandoned, the chub grew on, and some were claimed to top the 7lb mark. I’ve only occasionally fished here in the last few years, catching some nice chub averaging just under 5lbs, but I was stunned to see what had happened while I’ve been away. I know we’re well behind weather wise this year, but I think the pictures will do the talking.

This is what I was greeted with, but below is what these pegs should look like

As you can see, some real butchery had ruined the chub hot spot. Even worse, all the willow branches had been dumped on the canal bed, meaning it is now an absolute snag fest. It doesn’t really affect the boats, as the canal is about 10ft deep here in the middle, but it certainly buggers light line fishing for chub up!

I still had a go, using a cage feeder, liquidised bread and flake on the hook. I used 4lb line straight through, I daren’t go any lighter. The first bite was a drop back, but by the time I made contact with the chub it was in a snag under my feet! As soon as it felt the hook, before I’d struck, it had motored 15 yards towards me into that snag! I knew then how tough this session would be. After 3 chub had broken my hook links in various underwater branches, I managed to net the fourth, a small sample that would have been between 3-4 lbs. It wasn’t exactly enjoyable stood up cranking it in as hard as I could. I decided to try and brave the murky canal for big perch instead.

The perch venue had cleared slightly, though visibility was just a couple of feet. Normally it’s crystal clear, but I still hoped some big perch would find my juicy lobworms. I had plenty of them with me, and Martin came along too, though he was going to float fish on bread for the bream, roach and chub.

I fished around 70 yards away from Martin, not that I was being unsociable. I just knew that the area Martin was in had produced very few big perch over the winter, so I tried a less popular area.

The bream certainly liked Martins bread as he started putting together a fine net from a canal. I’m really surprised more anglers don’t fish these neglected waterways instead of fishing in muddy ponds. 50lb nets of bream, roach and chub are easily caught, and that’s in just a few hours. I also caught some bream on my worms, link legered at the base of the near shelf. I then hooked a fish that fought a bit harder. I saw it was a perch and it looked a big one too, but I quickly landed it without too many alarms. Despite its impressive girth, it didn’t have the length to threaten the 4lb barrier and weighed 3lbs 9oz. A cracking result in such murky water.

Just before darkness fell, Martin came to take a few photos, we then went back to his peg. He’d caught plenty of slabs, so many he struggled to lift the net! A good day had been had by us both, but our timing was good because the next day the canal flooded badly after yet more heavy rains. It was like fishing the river Trent according to some anglers, yet a few days later it was like a ditch as some bright spark had failed to close a lock gate while they ran loads of water into the River Don! No wonder the fishing was so different on what would be my last day after perch.

I caught dozens of perch, but nothing was over 12oz. I also caught the first roach of spring, and lost another roach around 12oz, signalling time to change the target species as the roach become very dominant. Multiply the photo below by 20 and you have an idea of my catch. It can be quite expensive feeding all those tiny perch expensive lobworms!

I moved canals again, targeting quality roach. Even this canal, well away from rivers, was heavily coloured. Over a couple of early morning sessions, float fishing and feeder fishing bread, I managed some nice roach. Not the big pound plus fish Martin and I had last year, but some nice quality redfins. Of course, the bream are everywhere these days, so numbers of slabs were also netted.

I noticed a lot of the roach had marks on them, possibly from goosanders or cormorants.

On my second trip, one roach had a nasty slash from a cormorant, but it had lived to tell the tale! At least I think this is almost certainly the work of a cormorant!

This canal is very urban, but maybe the cormorants visited while the rivers were raging through and most stillwaters had an ice lid on them. I certainly hope it’s not a regular thing, as the roach are real stunners in this tiny canal. They will also be my local targets for the next few weeks, along with some canal bream and tench……….and then it’s time to try and catch some really big tench from some gravel pits. Roll on summer!



Rain Stopped Play

Well, the end of the river season has passed and what a let down. The river was almost over it’s banks in the end, but things were looking very good with 3 weeks left. Even then things didn’t go to plan.

It was my day off work and my local rivers were looking in fine trim. The temperatures were freezing overnight but almost double figures in the day. It was probably a bit too cold for barbel, so it was either chub or roach fishing, or possibly both. Before I could fish though, I heard the dreaded words ‘I think the dog needs to go to the vets Mick, he’s squinting badly, are you ok to book him in straight away at 8.30 when they open please’ Talk about a spanner in the works. That was the start of the frustrations! By 12.45 I was back home with the dog, but £160 lighter in the pocket. Thats a decent rod in angling currency! I put the dog in the house, went straight into the garage, then shot down to the river to salvage what I could of the day.

I decided to fish a swim I’d not fished since summer, just to see what was at home. A long glide finished where a tree had fallen in the water. I trotted maggots up to the tree, then held back hard, before repeating the process many times. By fishing well over depth I managed to get the odd bite, with most coming almost right under the tree.

I landed a couple of spanking 6oz roach then managed to lose a few good fish that straightened my hooks. I thought they were chub so wasn’t too bothered. Eventually I landed one of the chub and followed it with a lovely roach that was 3oz over a pound

This gave me plenty of encouragement, but the only other fish I landed were a few more 6oz roach. After losing my 4th good chub of the day to another straightened hook, I decided to move swims before I ran out of hooks! It had been a good couple of hours in the swim though.

I headed to a swim where I’d caught the chub and perch from in the last blog. A nice crease swim against some far bank cover. I fed it first with maggots while I had a rest. I was working out my plan of action. After fishing this swim I’d fish a couple more, both known to hold big roach, saving the best swim till dusk.

Before I could put my plan into action I received a text from Tracey. Her daughters car had broke down at work, could I pick her up at 5pm and go to the shop too………You can guess what I thought! I estimated I’d have about 40 minutes fishing left before I had to get home so thought I’d give the swim I was in my full attention.

Surprisingly, after feeding regularly and trying all sorts when I was trotting I never had a touch. That was until the float went under and I hooked the bottom, which then started to move slowly upstream! I’d obviously hooked into a heavy fish, possibly a pike that just kept going, very slowly upstream, before the hook pinged out, almost straightened again! I don’t think the fish even knew it was hooked.

There was too little time to tie another hook on, so I bent it back into shape and trotted again. This time the float shot under and I played a very roach like fish to the middle. It was hard to see what it was in the coloured water, but there were no silver flashes so I suspected a big perch. Just as I saw what looked like stripes, the hook pinged out again. It wasn’t going well today. On the next trot the float buried again and I was into a big roach. I knew straight away this time as it came straight to the surface to give the game away. It’s always nerve racking landing a good roach in flowing water but my bendy hook held firm and the day was suddenly getting better. It looked like a fish I caught on hemp at the end of summer. If so, that meant it usually swims in a decent shoal of big roach, possibly 12 to 15 in number, with several over 2lbs.

The next cast saw the float bury again, and another tense battle took place with another good roach. I soon landed it to make it 2 roach over a pound and a half in successive casts.

The next few trots saw a couple of missed bites, before I hooked big roach number 3. This time it out smarted me by diving into a clump of weed, where it shed the hook before my eyes. What a crafty sod. Almost chub like. To top things off, as I pulled my hook out of the weed, it pinged back and wrapped round the tip of the rod into a right old birds nest. I took that as my time to leave as I’d not even have time to tackle up again before I’d have to set off home.

I tried to sum the day up. A disaster? possibly, but you can’t call those river roach a disaster. Maybe it was a case of what could have been. I wasn’t too bothered though as I’d found a good shoal of big roach. I thought I’d surely get a chance to target them before the ‘dreaded 14th’, but alas, the ‘Beast from the East’ then heavy rain put the river out of action until a couple of days after the season ended. There was one small window to fish but I was busy that day. Martin landed a couple of fish just under 2lbs on that day, from the last swim I’d planned to fish in my ‘ruined’ plan.

‘As one door closes another opens’ is the saying, so it’s time to fish my local ‘cuts’ for some perch roach and chub, which all grow to specimen sizes if you know where to look. On my only short trip so far, I fished lobworms for big perch. I turned up in the early afternoon, just as a few match anglers were packing up. They tipped back 4 small roach between them as the ‘beast’ had really cooled the water. You should have seen their faces 5 minutes later when both my rods went off straight away, just after I’d cast in. A couple of bream wasn’t what I was after, but they kept me on my toes, as did plenty of others.

In fact it got me thinking just how good my local canals are. As I’ve said, they definitely hold big roach to over 2lbs, chub to over 7lbs, perch to almost 5lbs, plus numbers of 20lb+ pike. The hard thing about targeting these fish though is the sheer numbers of bream. The canals are full of them. In fact since the closed season was abolished, my local canals have never fished better……food for thought!!

Lovely Chubly

The weather has been a mixed and rather cold bag since I last wrote on here. The temperature today though touched double figures, but it’s also rained all day. There are signs that the fish are starting to wake up, in my local rivers at least, so hopefully sport will pick up before we have to abandon the rivers just as they’re reaching peak form.

Speaking of abandoning the rivers as they hit peak form, the EA is looking into the current close season on our rivers and the Angling Times also ran a poll along the same lines. Now I don’t usually do angling politics on here, but I think the current system has had it’s day. ‘Rivers are better than ever’ some people say, but not in my neck of the woods they aren’t. Apart from the River Don, that used to be an open sewer, all my local rivers are dire compared to when I was in my teens. Some are almost sterile and no close season will have any effect on them any time soon.

Here’s a stretch of river that used to produce 2lb+ roach and 4lb+ chub, not to mention the swarms of gudgeon that swam over the gravels in their hundreds.

Yes there is a river under that lot! Cormorants took most of the fish, and over abstraction, probably linked to over population, have since rendered it almost invisible.

A bit further downstream it looks more like it used to when I started fishing.

Some evenings, when the big roach used to roll here, you had to shout to make yourself heard! Now the river here is empty and abandoned by the EA. There’s no need for a close season here, in fact it may as well be turned into a road.

The tiny rivers where I learned to fish, The Torne, Idle, Mother Drain and Ryton all teemed with fish. All but the Ryton were famous round these parts for their big roach, not to mention all the other fish that meant you could catch from almost anywhere. The Ryton held a lot of large dace, and big chub for the time, up to and over 5lbs. Again, the cormorants soon polished those smaller fish off.

All of the above rivers do still hold some fish, but a tiny fraction compared to my youth, and it’s a heck of a job to find them. I’d say that there is about 2-5% of the fish populations of old in these 4 rivers at the very most. That’s not me trying to over sensationalise things, but the truth. All the rivers are crystal clear so it’s not hard to make this number up and see how empty they are.

Looking at some of my results on these rivers, you’d wonder why I’m moaning. All contain numbers of chub over 4lbs up to well over 5lbs, which I’ve caught, as well as some lumpy perch to over 3lbs. The roach still remain, and considering Martin and I have caught around 30 x 2lb+ roach in a couple of years you’d think it was heaven. However, that is not the case. Those roach have been caught from 13 areas, or swims, over many miles of rivers. Once there was many huge shoals of roach from ounces right up to fish beyond our wildest dreams. There is just a fraction of those numbers still hanging on. The chub will be in shoals sometimes over a mile apart. There are no gudgeon or the many shoals of fish such as perch and dace that once filled the gaps in between. In fact I’ll make this bold statement. If the young Mike Townsend was playing down his local woods today, peering off the bridge into the river, he wouldn’t have begged his dad to buy him some fishing tackle for Christmas. Those roach and gudgeon I used to stare at for hours captivated me, but they’re not there now, so I doubt I’d have ended up being an angler.

Anyway, on to the original point, there’s just no need for a close season round here on my rivers. On those rivers that have larger fish populations, I’m sure a mid April till mid July close season would suit the fish far better. And if the EA really cared about fish and the environment, it would stop over abstraction that has choked what bit of life remained in my locals, then at least they might have a chance to recover. In a time when every news agency jumps on bandwagons such as the ‘plastic pollution’ one, they turn a blind eye to the very thing that is effecting our environment more than anything, the mis use and over demand for the nectar that supplies the planet with life, water!

Right, that’s politics done with, now for some fishing.

The temperature was still hovering just above freezing when I tackled my local river for roach. The colour and levels of the river looked good after some rain, but it was cold rain so I was unsure how things would go.

Trotting maggots under a stick float bought a few bites from some roach with the day brightened up by a 1lb 6oz roach. It was more than welcome in such conditions.

After a couple of trips where I struggled, the air temperature suddenly headed to almost double figures! I walked up and down the banks feeding various spots, and soon spotted some shadowy shapes moving tight to some cover. I was pretty certain some were chub, but some smaller shapes were ‘big roach size’ so I concentrated on this particular area. I fed maggots into the swim for around 30 minutes prior to casting in. On my first trot through, the float buried and I thought I’d hooked the bottom, but then the bottom nodded!  It turned out to be a chub, and a decent one at that for this area, it weighed 5lbs 4oz

I also added chub of 4lb 4oz and 4lb 11oz. They gave my light trotting gear a real good workout.

I then hooked into something that felt like a big roach, but I couldn’t see any silver flashes through the slightly coloured water. It turned out to be a perch, full of defiance to the very end, bristling with anger that I’d disturbed it. It wasn’t a big fish, around a pound and a half or so

As dusk was starting to set, I got into an almighty birds nest after pulling out of another fish, probably a chub, so I tackled down and vowed to return the next day.

After a few delays in the morning, I returned to the banks early in the afternoon. It was 9 degrees now, and we’d not had an overnight frost. I set about feeding a few swims again and it was now a lot easier to see fish as the colour was dropping out by the minute. In one I could see a couple of big roach, but they were flanked by their chub bodyguards. After feeding maggots for a while, all the fish were really hunting out the bait. With the fish so active, I headed to the spot where Martin and I have had a lot of good roach since the end of November.

It’s slightly deeper and steadier here so I kicked off on the stick and maggots again. A couple of chunky 6oz fish came early followed by a real old warrior of 1lb 8oz. I don’t know if this fish bears the marks of an earlier pike attack, when there was a real menace causing havoc in early winter, or if its the goosanders again. It could possibly be some disease, as a lot of fish have ragged, split or worn tail fins. Some might say it’s keepnets, but when Martin and I find these roach, we’re usually the first to catch them and they’re already tatty and battered. Plus, they’re only in the net for a couple of hours at the most.

The fish was also covered in leeches, suggesting the larger fish may have been laying dormant in the cold water. I quickly removed them all before placing her in the net.

After the early roach, I then hooked and landed a couple more 4lb+ chub. They’re not usually caught around these swims, but I think it proves they’re getting really active and hungry now.

The swim went quiet following the commotion, but as dusk lowered the light levels, the roach switched back on. Amongst the 4 -8oz fish, a few more better samples were landed, 1lb, 1lb 6oz, and 1lb 11oz roach made it a good day and one to get me excited that I may have an end of season bonanza.

When I got home and put the photos onto my pc, my enthusiasm was tempered a touch. The 1.11 and the 1.6 were the last decent roach I’d caught over the last 6 weeks in previous trips. After seeing a couple of shoals in this area in clear water, totalling around 20 or more big roach, I’d have though the chances were slim of those 2 fish being caught again before any others. Time will tell whether the others have moved on or fallen the victims to predators, but for now it’s time to rest the roach until the weather warms or the season is about to end…….which brings me back to where I started!